Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country's first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation. Ideologically an African nationalist and socialist, he served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) party from 1991 to 1997. Mandela was born to the Thembu royal family in Mvezo, British South Africa. He studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg. There he became involved in anti-colonial and African nationalist politics, joining the ANC in 1943 and co-founding its Youth League in 1944. After the National Party's white-only government established apartheid, a system of racial segregation that privileged whites, he and the ANC committed themselves to its overthrow. Mandela was appointed President of the ANC's Transvaal branch, rising to prominence for his involvement in the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He presided over the transition from apartheid minority rule to a multicultural democracy, and led a national reconciliation of post-apartheid South Africa. Mandela oversaw the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed under apartheid by both the government and the ANC. Mandela is no doubt one of the most revered leaders of our time. He is respected widely in Africa and across the globe. In South Africa, Mandela is regarded as ‘the father of the nation’ and ‘the founding father of democracy’. He is often cited alongside Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of the 20th century's exemplary anti-racist and anti-colonial leaders.
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